Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Skin Deep Blog Tour


What's it all about ...

Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty, but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.

Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything and Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.

Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.

Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what's on the outside counts for so much?

What did I think about it ...

Former model, Diana is a young art student when she first meets four year old Cal who is locked away in his own private world, hidden from view by his drug addled parents because of a facial disfigurement. Diana finds inspiration for her art in Cal and using him as her muse, she not only produces some spectacular artwork but she also fall in love with Cal.

As Diana and Cal's lives intertwine we find some comfort in that two quite damaged souls are able to find some sort of resolution with each other, and yet, damaged as they are, their combined stories make such a fascinating story. I think the author has done a really good job of allowing us a glimpse into the life affirming idea that we are all worth so much more than what we see, superficially, on the surface, and that by exploring people, quite literally, skin deep, we gain so much more of an insight into their character.

Taking the concept of beauty and the beast, and turning it on its head, is really interesting idea and I think that the author has done a good job of allowing the story to evolve without ever resorting to over-sentimentality. The characterisation is good; I loved Cal from the beginning, and yet, I wasn’t very sure about Diana, her motives in caring so much for the boy were commendable and yet, there were times when I felt that she was just as guilty of manipulating him for her own success as perhaps others were for seeing only his disfigurement, and not the person inside.

Skin Deep is an interesting novel, with a well written thoughtful insight into what makes us, despite our defects, continually search for an elusive perfection.

Best Read With ...Coffee and thick slices of buttered toast...

About the Author

Find Laura on her Facebook page

Follow on Twitter @ScorpioScribble

Visit her Amazon UK page

My thanks to the author and also to Accent Press for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.


Monday, 26 June 2017

Author Spotlight ~ Isabella Davidson

I am delighted to have with me on the blog today, Isabella Davidson

 Author of The Beta Mum  Adventures in Alpha Land

Silverwood Books
June 2017

What's it all about ...

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet, sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn't know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha mums.. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep. 

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower's advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha mums?

Hi Isabella, welcome to Jaffareadstoo...☺

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started as an author.

Writing is something I have done my whole life, without even realising it. I wrote a short story when I was 9 years old and my teacher at the time told me that perhaps, one day, I would become a writer. I put this dream on hold when I went to university to study medicine, but it was always there at the back of my mind. When I had my first daughter, I thought I would write during my maternity leave, but then I had my daughter and realised how much work and effort it takes to look after a baby! Six months after I returned back to work, I realised I couldn’t be the doctor I wanted to be and the mother I wanted to be, so I quit working as a doctor. After my second child was born, I started a blog, www.nottinghillyummymummy.com chronicling the entertaining lives of west London residents and my love of writing returned. When people complimented my writing, I thought that perhaps I could write that book. Last year, I took the Faber Academy’s ‘Writing a Novel’ class and one and a half years later, my book, The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, has just been published. 

Where did you get inspiration for The Beta Mum Adventures in Alpha Land? 

They say to write about what you know, so I wrote about being a mum and the struggles and challenges of motherhood today. It is set in glitzy west London, which makes for a colourful and entertaining setting, but my main character’s experiences are common experiences that many mothers face today: loneliness, feeling like an outsider, trying to find a balance between being a mother and an individual, having a career and feeling guilty or not having a career and struggling with your identity. I think that many women will relate to my main character’s challenges. 

Tell us three interesting things about your novel which will tempt the reader's interest.

  • All my characters are fictional, but some of the events in the book are based on events that have happened to me or to people I know, like the time I went on a play date and someone thought I was there for a housekeeping interview.

  • I am not Sophie the main character but I have experienced feelings of loneliness and feeling like an outsider when I was a child and moved around the world every few years, so I used those emotions in Sophie when she moves to London and feels completely like a fish out of water. 

  • I had a lot of fun writing the character of Kelly, Sophie’s main ‘frenemy’ who is so bitchy and awful, but also so fun to write. She is a character that you love to hate. 

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. During the writing process did they ever dictate how the story progressed, or did you stick with a writing plan from the beginning and never deviate?

My characters didn’t really dictate how the story progressed, but I didn’t have a writing plan either! I tried really hard to have a writing plan, but it constantly changed, so I had to constantly change my characters to adapt to it. My characters evolved over time and became more complex as the book was edited and re-written. When you first start, you know your characters as acquaintances, but as you go through the writing process, you get to know them intimately and they become close friends that you know everything about. It’s a beautiful relationship in a way, between an author and his or her characters. 

The book world is very competitive – how do you get your book noticed?

Yes, the book world is very competitive – almost as competitive as some of the characters in my book! Writing a book takes a lot of work, but I never realised how much work it takes to promote a book; it takes hours and days of determination, perseverance and a very thick skin. I have been really lucky in that I have been featured in major newspapers – The Saturday Times and The Daily Mail – but even with this exposure, it is still hard to get noticed when there is so much information we are bombarded with on a daily basis. I have also approached bloggers and book reviewers and organised giveaways. It has been non-stop and it still continues even after the book is published. 

Without giving too much away, what do you hope readers will take away from reading The Beta Mum Adventures in Alpha Land?

I hope that readers will empathise with my character and perhaps feel less lonely in their situation. I know that many mums struggle with motherhood, whether out of loneliness or a loss of identity after having children and I hope that the readers feel that they are not alone. I have already had some wonderful reviews and comments from bloggers and book reviewers, and many have said that they related to Sophie, which is what I intended. Of course, I also want my readers to enjoy the book. It is a light, fun, summer read that isn’t meant to be taken very seriously, so I hope I make someone a little happier after reading it. That’s the beauty of books isn’t it? A bit of escapism and the chance to live another life for a few hours.

About the Author

Isabella Davidson is the author of the popular blog Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, which chronicles the entertaining lives of west London residents. She started The Beta Mum during the six-month Faber Academy novel writing course. Prior to startingher writing career, she worked for a Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian organisation and as a doctor for the National Health Service.

You can find more about Isabella on her website Notting Hill Yummy Mummy by clicking here

Discover her on Goodreads

Follow on Twitter @NHyummymummy #thebetamum

Huge thanks to Isabella for spending time with us today and for answering our questions so thoughtfully.  

The Beta Mum Adventures in Alpha Land is out now and published by Silverwood Books.


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered ...

Following on from my post last week about caring for the wounded at the field hospital in Étaples where, in the main, most of the soldiers were patched up and sent back to the Western front to continue their military service. However, some were too badly injured to return to duty and so were considered to be medically unfit and were discharged from active service.

The Silver War Badge was issued in the United Kingdom and the British Empire to those service personnel who had been retired or honourably discharged due to wounds, sickness or on reaching the age of 51. It was first issued in 1916 and continued until 1920.

Silver War Badge

© IWM (INS 7364)

This small silver pin was designed to be worn on the lapel of civilian clothes after an authorised discharge from the British Army and was first issued in September 1916, but was also retrospectively issued to August, 1914. 

It was also known as the  ’Silver Wound Badge’, ‘Services Rendered Badge’, ‘Discharged Soldiers Badge’, or ‘King’s Silver Badge’.

The main purpose of the badge was to offer protection to men in uniform so that they wouldn't be considered to be shirkers or objectors. It was evidence that they had been on active service and were now discharged.

Approximately 1,150,000 were issued.

There was also a King's Certificate of Discharge which was awarded to those soldiers who had been disabled by injuries sustained in areas of active fighting overseas. Being awarded a Silver War Badge did not necessarily entitle a soldier to to be awarded the King's Certificate.


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Close to Home ...June Francis

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.

Today I welcome North West  Writer

June Francis

Hi, June and a very warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?

I have lived in Liverpool all my life within the roar of the football fans when there is a home match at Anfield but I was born in Blackpool as my mother was evacuated there for my birth during WW2. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. I married the boy I met in the local cinema in our mid teens and we were courting for six years. Life was different in the fifties. I wanted to be a writer at school and my English teacher told me I had a great imagination but terrible handwriting. I didn’t believe a working class girl could become an author so I was a cash clerk for ten years and then after leaving work to have my first son I started a playgroup in the church hall and was in charge of that, unpaid, for another ten years by then I had another two sons.

When the youngest started school I not only became editor of the church magazine I joined a writers’ group in Crosby and began sending off articles to magazines. For a year they all came back and then arrived that wonderful moment when I received some encouraging attention from the editor and a short time later I had my first article accepted about Christmas customs around the world, I went on to write more articles about various customs but my second article accepted was about how I was a terrible cook but eventually became a good one. After writing articles I entered a synopsis and five hundred words of an historical romance for the writers club competition and came second but I also won the cup for endeavour. A published writer of Mills & Boon told me to finish my novel and send it to them as they had started an historical imprint and were looking for authors. It took me two years to get the book right but eventually it was accepted, along with another one I had written set in Chester and North Wales. I had another two accepted before deciding I wanted to write a novel set in Liverpool which took me two years as it was a different genre, by then I had an agent. It was accepted after being turned down about five times, by Judy Piatkus and she sold on the paperback rights to Bantam and the large print rights to Magna.

Your books are written in North West England, but not always set in the North West – how have the people and its landscape shaped your stories?

I have always enjoyed history but didn’t start taking an enormous interest in local history until I began writing about it. Having said that my mother used to talk about her background, she had been in service, and about her family history and I’d visit aunts and uncles and my grandfather who still lived in different areas of the city. My maternal grandfather was a sailor and my paternal grandfather had worked at various jobs around the docks. His father was a Norwegian sailor, one of my brothers was a sailor, so I had strong feelings for family and for seafarers, as well as my home city and the magic of faraway places with strange sounding names. My mother-in-law had also been a great help to me, after being widowed she spent Sunday afternoons at my home and talked about her past which was very different to my mother’s, but both were strong working class women who’d had sorrow in their lives and lived through interesting times as had their husbands. My being a war-baby means that I remember something of post-war times, through the forties when the yanks were still on the scene and the fabulous musical fifties and sixties which shaped Liverpool in more recent times as much as it being a port did in the past.

As a writer based in the North West, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?

It can be difficult promoting them beyond the North West but I do have a website and a blog and am on Facebook. Also setting parts of books in other places can help them sell elsewhere. I have set parts of stories in the South of England, the US, Australia, Ireland, France. I have cousins in the US and friends in Australia who get the word around about my books.

In your research for your books, did you visit any of the places you write about and which have made a lasting impression?

I set a medieval romance in Ireland, also part of a saga, so visited Dublin and the Wicklow Hills. I took my youngest son Daniel with me as it was the school summer holidays at that and took our bikes and caught the ferry across the Irish Sea. We rode up from Dublin into the Wicklow Hills which are lovely but the weather was unbelievable hot so it was a hard slog and the tarmac melted and stuck to our tyres. There was definitely a magical feel about the countryside, as well as an emptiness. At that time I knew little Irish history. We were staying with a friend from church’s cousin and her husband and family on an erstwhile farm but they did no farming despite having several acres of land. They did have a few hens and ducks but no running water and the lavatory was in an outhouse with roses growing around the door. They had a huge old fashioned fireplace and burned peat. They had six children and the husband had delivered two of them at home. She was English and I think he was, too. He had been a lecturer in German and she had been one of his students. They had travelled around the world and came back broke. He had bought the house a few years before so they settled down there. They made us very welcome and Daniel and I would go with a couple of the children to fetch water from the river and also pick wild garlic. When the weather broke we returned to Dublin and stayed in the Georgian youth hostel there. They made us very welcome. Unfortunately Dublin Castle was closed and covered in scaffolding, so no research there but we did visited the museum and Trinity College which were interesting and dropped some coins in the hat of a woman and her baby begging on a bridge over the river Liffey. The only downside was the proclamation in the college or museum which contained the words our enemy the English. I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach, thinking how back in Liverpool half the population had Irish blood. At that time I believed I didn’t have a drop, but since tracing my family tree I’ve discovered a great-great grandfather who was a weaver and settled in Manchester. His daughter married a Manchurian and they moved to Liverpool.

If you were pitching the North West as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

The North West has several cities of note with decent shopping centres, theatres and cinemas and art galleries, as well as several seaside resorts, attractive market towns and villages in lovely countryside and a coastline that has some great beaches and coastal walks as well as a National Trust red squirrel reserve. It also has two Tudor houses, Speke Hall and Rufford Hall. There are also two airports; Liverpool’s John Lennon and Manchester. Liverpool also has a new cruise liner terminal as well as a heritage waterfront which includes the Albert Dock, a Maritime Museum, a Liverpool Life Museum and a Beatles’ attraction and the Echo arena. Both Manchester and Liverpool cater for the classical music lovers with music halls and orchestras of note and both have universities and famous football teams. There is the beautiful city of Chester on the River Dee, with a world renowned zoo a few miles away and North Wales almost on the doorstep, as is the Wirral.

The North West has given birth to not only many a writer but also musicians, comedians, actors, sculptors and artist finding inspiration in its maritime and industrial history and its kind and gutsy people.

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I belong to a local writers group that meets twice a month as well as two other groups that meet less often, one in Wales and the other in Southport. We also keep in touch online.

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

Very supportive and there are opportunities to do signings and talks at books shops and libraries of which I have done many, as well as to women’s groups in church halls and the like. I am booked as one of the speakers at a forthcoming Litfest in Penny Lane, South Liverpool in October. Liverpool and Manchester both have good libraries in the city centres, most important for research for writers.

If someone is new to your work, which book do you think they should start with?

I have written 37 books so not an easy question. Probably A MOTHER’S DUTY which is set in a hotel in Liverpool in the latter years of the 1930s and the early years of WW2. The heroine is widow Kitty Ryan who owns the hotel and has three sons. There is a sequel called A DAUGHTER’S CHOICE.


More about June can be found on her website by clicking here or on her blog by clicking here

Find on Facebook

Huge thanks to June for being such a lovely guest today and for sharing her love of Liverpool with us 

I hope that you have enjoyed this Close to Home Feature

Coming next week : Rebecca Mascull


Friday, 23 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to  be hosting one of the stops on today's  blog tour for

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

What's it all about

Harper Impulse
23 June 2017

One chance isn't always enough…

Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realises that getting back on track means travelling in a different direction.

She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They'll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who's in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is cancelling the cake orders, but it's when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realises things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbours and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?

What did I think about it ...

In this second book we see the welcome return of Emma who we met in The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square. We are now a couple of years further on and Emma is not only embracing young motherhood, but she is also about to realise her ambition of opening a cafe in Carlton Square which sells teas, coffees and delicious cakes. This is no ordinary venture, as Emma is determined to make a success of her newly fledged business whilst, at the same time, giving vulnerable youngsters a unique chance of learning a useful skill.

As with all of this talented author’s work, the book gets off to a zinging start. Emma is a feisty heroine, and her solid determination to make her business succeed against all the odds makes for some lively banter between the deliciously quirky characters, who flit into and out of the action, and who give the story its heart and soul.

As with any series, it's much better to start from the very beginning in order to really get to know the characteristics of the story, and yet, this book can easily stand on its own merits as a standalone, as the author does a great job of bringing everything to life in such a way that you soon start to feel comfortable with the place, and become equally fascinated by its people.

Written, as always, with genuine warmth and with the author's fine eye for detail, this story shows both the best and the worst of people, but what really shines through is the author's absolute commitment to entertaining storytelling, which always makes her books such a joy to read from beginning to end.

Best read with ...A half-caffeine, no-foam, fat free, triple shot latte..

About the Author

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters. Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.

Follow on Twitter @MicheleGormanUK

My thanks to the author for her kind invitation to be part of this lovely blog tour.
You can read my review of The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square by clicking here


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the 

Do Not Become Alarmed Blog Tour

Penguin Viking
June 2017

What's it all about..

When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship's comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor mishaps lead the families further from the ship's safety. 

One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone.

What follows is a heart-racing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the distraught parents - now turning on one another and blaming themselves - try to recover their children and their shattered lives.

What did I think about it...

A Central American cruise should have been the holiday of a lifetime for Liv, Nora and their respective husbands and children, and at first everything is going well. The children flourish on board the ship and join in with all the many activities and the adults finally start to relax away from the pressures of life. That is until a fateful decision is made to go ashore and whilst the husbands go to play golf, Liv, Nora and the children are taken on a separate excursion which goes disastrously wrong. What then follows is a frightening portrayal of what can happen by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The story is told from the perspectives of the parents, alternating with that of the children, which works as it allows an insight into the two strands of the story, which is all so necessary to maintain momentum. The author captures the parent's utter fear as they realise that something has happened to their children which is beyond their control and their abject misery and gut wrenching sadness is palpable.  The children’s resolve is tested to the limit as they are taken into a situation which is terrifying, and yet, even though their ingenuity is commendable, there were times, particularly in the later chapters, when I had to suspend belief, as I didn’t quite feel that some of their situations rang true.

Whilst I enjoyed reading the story, I do feel that some parts of the novel worked better than others. There are some elements which could have been left out entirely, whilst other, more important issues could have been expanded upon to add a little more depth and clarity. However, there is no doubt that this is one of those frightening scenarios that you hope will never, ever, happen to anyone's children on what should be an idyllic holiday.

Do Not Become Alarmed is published on 6th July 2017 

Follow on Twitter @mailemeloy #DoNotBecomeAlarmed

My thanks to the author and also to Josie at Penguin for my review copy of this book and also for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

Follow the tour until the 31st July 2017


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on this very special blog tour to celebrate 

the author, Lesley Pearse's 25th novel.

On this blog tour each of the blog tour hosts will share a factoid about one of Lesley's books..

Lesley's Seventh Novel ~ Charlie was published in 1999


The Woman in the Wood is a powerful, passionate and sinister tale of a young woman's courage, friendship and determination from one of the world's favourite storytellers.

Fifteen-year-old twins Maisy and Duncan Mitcham have always had each other. Until the fateful day in the wood . . .

One night in 1960, the twins awake to find their father pulling their screaming mother from the house. She is to be committed to an asylum. It is, so their father insists, for her own good.
It's not long before they, too, are removed from their London home and sent to Nightingales - a large house deep in the New Forest countryside - to be watched over by their cold-hearted grandmother, Mrs Mitcham. Though they feel abandoned and unloved, at least here they have something they never had before - freedom.

The twins are left to their own devices, to explore, find new friends and first romances. That is until the day that Duncan doesn't come back for dinner. Nor does he return the next day. Or the one after that.

When the bodies of other young boys are discovered in the surrounding area the police appear to give up hope of finding Duncan alive. With Mrs Mitcham showing little interest in her grandson's disappearance, it is up to Maisy to discover the truth. And she knows just where to start. The woman who lives alone in the wood about whom so many rumours abound. A woman named Grace Deville.

Lesley Pearse

Visit the author's website

Visit on Facebook 

Follow on Twitter @Lesley Pearse 

#LoveLesley #TheWomanInTheWood

Follow the Blog tour until 25th June

My thanks to the author for continuing to enthral us with her unique brand of story telling and also to Darran at edpr for the invitation to be part of this very special blog tour.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ I know My Name by C J Cooke

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the

I Know My Name Blog Tour

15 June 2017

What's it all about...

Komméno Island, Greece: I don't know where I am, who I am. Help me. A woman is washed up on a remote Greek island with no recollection of who she is or how she got there.

Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, London: Eloïse Shelley is officially missing.

Lochlan’s wife has vanished into thin air, leaving their toddler and twelve-week-old baby alone. Her money, car and passport are all in the house, with no signs of foul play. Every clue the police turn up means someone has told a lie…

Does a husband ever truly know his wife? Or a wife know her husband? Why is Eloïse missing? Why did she forget?

The truth is found in these pages…

What did I think about it...

I Know My Name is an addictive psychological mystery which draws you in from the opening chapter - a chapter which leaves you with more questions than it does answers. I'm being deliberately vague as this really a book which is easily spoiled by giving too much away.

All I will say is that the story fired my imagination from the beginning so that I never really knew what was going to happen next or indeed which character was telling a version of the truth. So many unanswered questions form the basis of the plot which is taut, tight and beautifully recounted.

The author definitely knows how to crank up the pressure and in I Know My Name the tension exists from the very beginning. I really had no idea where the story was taking me, which is why I read it quickly over the space of just a few hours, partly because I couldn't put it down, but also because I wanted to find out just what was going on. As with all psychological thrillers there is a sting in the tail, which I didn’t suspect until it was upon me and then everything fitted into place beautifully.

What that twist is, well, you’ll have to find out for yourself…

I Know My Name
is one of those books which is just perfect for the holiday season, pack it in your travel bag and be prepared to suspend time ..

Best Read with...cherry tomatoes, olives and pitta bread..

I KNOW MY NAME by acclaimed poet and academic CJ Cooke is being published in several other languages and a TV adaptation is in development. CJ was inspired to write the novel through her work in creative writing interventions for treating mental illness

Follow on Twitter @CJ_Cooke_Author #IKnowMyName

My thanks to the author and also to Felicity at Harper Collins for my review copy of

I Know My Name and also for the kind invitation to be part of this blog tour which runs until

the 22nd June


Monday, 19 June 2017

Review ~ The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

Harper Impulse

What's it all about...

When Emma’s boyfriend Daniel pops the question with a ring the size of a small country, she suddenly realises just how different they are. She’s the Eastenders to his Made in Chelsea. She wants a low-key wedding with close friends and family in Uncle Colin’s pub, while Daniel’s mother is expecting a society do that their high-brow guests won’t forget!

How on earth can Emma put together a celebration fit for Lords and Ladies on a shoestring budget? Not to mention the fact her cross-dressing Uncle Barbara wants to be a bridesmaid, her best mate Kelly can’t stand Daniel’s best friend Cressida, and her dad is too proud to accept any help from Daniel’s family towards the costs.

There’s three months to go until the big day. Will Emma’s happy-ever-after end in disaster?

What did I think about it...

What I like about this author's writing is her ability to entertain her readers and right from the start in The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square we are entertained by a cast of characters who melt right into your heart.

As Emma and Daniel are soon to discover, planning their wedding and trying to keep both sides of their, very different, families singing from the same hymn sheet is going to be tricky. And as anyone who has planned a wedding knows, the route to a perfect wedding day is nearly always littered with unexpected obstacles.

There is a lovely light touch to this romantic comedy which has all the right ingredients for a fun filled, read. With her trademark warmth and wit, the author gets right into the heart of the story, from her colourful array of characters, through to the insightful way she weaves into the story, the notion, that it really isn't about the size of the wedding it's all about the love in your heart.

A lovely summer read.

Best Read With...a glass of gently sparkling champagne and a slice of wedding cake...

About the Author

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters. Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.


Twitter @MicheleGormanUK

Read an interview with Lilly Bartlett here

My thanks to the author for inviting me to read and review

 The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

During WW1 the small town of Étaples, in the Pas de Calais region of northern France, became a vast Allied Military camp, and was also the site of a several successful field hospitals. Wounded soldiers, including my husband's grandfather, were taken there to be treated before being returned to the front, or en route back to England for more extensive treatment. 

British Army Camp at Étaples
© IWM (Q 58089)

Due to a severe shortage of trained nurses, the field hospitals relied heavily on the work of the Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses, who, whilst unskilled, became the stalwarts of the service. During the four years of war 38,000 VADs worked in hospitals and served as ambulance drivers and cooks.

Nurses in the Princess Victoria's Rest Club for nurses at Etaples.
© IWM (Q 3170)

The writer, Vera Brittain spent eight months as a VAD nurse at Étaples between August 1917 and April 1918 and wrote of her experiences there in her memoir, Testament of Youth, and in her poem The Last Post, which she wrote at Étaples in 1917.

Female Ambulance Drivers, with their vehicles at Étaples
June 1917
© IWM (Q 2441)

Étaples provided care for hundreds of patients as well as being a  military training camp, supplies depot and a detention base for prisoners. At any one time there could have been upwards of 100,000 people there. On this one site there were many hospitals who catered for as many as 22,000 patients.

A patient in traction on the officers' ward at No. 24 General Hospital at Etaples, France.
© IWM (Q 8033)

In order to boost morale there was a royal visit to France by King George V and  Queen Mary 3-14th July 1917 where they visited strategic sites including the hospitals at Étaples.

Queen Mary of Teck talking to the wounded soldiers
 at the St John Ambulance Hospital at Etaples, 6th July 1917
© IWM (Q 2512)

The Étaples military camp was one of the largest of its kind and as such did not escape military bombardment. The camp was bombed by Germans in 1918 with many casualties and fatalities.

Étaples War Cemetery is now a six hectare site which houses the graves of 11,500 soldiers who died from wounds or disease sustained during this conflict.

My husband's grandfather was successfully treated at the hospital in Étaples and returned to the front where he continued to serve until the end of the war. 

As always, I am indebted to the IWM and their WW1 collections for the opportunity to share these photographs.


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Close To Home ~ Melinda Hammond

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.

Please welcome Northern Writer

A very warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Melinda. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?

I am a storyteller, it is something I have done since a child, keeping school friends entertained, even before I knuckled down to the long haul of writing a whole book! I have been published since the 1980s and now have over 40 books published. I began writing Regency romance as Melinda Hammond and still publish historical novels under this name, and I also write historical romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon as Sarah Mallory.

Your books are written in Northern England, but not always set in the North. Have the people and the northern landscape shaped your stories in any way?

Confession time – I am a West Country girl who moved to the Yorkshire Pennines nearly 30 years ago and absolutely love it!

Yorkshire Pennines

I have written several books set in the North, including my latest ones for Harlequin, The Duke's Secret Heir (out now), which is partly set in Harrogate, and Pursued for the Viscount's Vengeance (published in September 17).


The moors where I live have been used for the settings for two of my earlier novels, although I changed the location names to give myself a little artistic licence. They are still two favourite books.

One is the Melinda Hammond novel, Winter Inheritance (first published as The Highclough Lady) and the other, writing as Sarah Mallory, The Scarlet Gown.


I think the cover of Winter Inheritance might be of interest, because I took the background photo myself and it is literally yards from my front door.

Since moving to the north I have become much more interested in the Industrial Revolution, and I even wrote one Sarah Mallory novel which involved a southern lady marrying a Yorkshire mill owner (To Catch a Husband). It is a romance, of course, but it does touch upon the harsh reality of factory life.


In your research for your books, did you visit any of the places you write about and which have made a lasting impression?

Oh, lots of places, including a couple of trips to Waterloo! Thinking specifically of the North of England, the old mills and factories here are a constant reminder of the country's industrial heritage. I spent some years working in what had once been a cotton mill, and it was easy to imagine how busy and noisy it must have been – and the hard lives of the factory workers. I also have a book set on the Northumberland coast, all empty beaches and brooding castles, which has yet to be published. It is there, nagging away and I hope before too long to publish it.

If you were pitching the North of England as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

You are never far away from huge tracts of emptiness! That is what drew me to the North in the first place. As a writer I love the wide open spaces, the ability to step outside and walk the moors with just the curlews and lapwings for company. It is also wonderful in dead of winter, when everything is covered with snow. There is a timelessness about the North, perfect for a historical novelist to imagine what life was like centuries ago. The people, too, are pretty special, very friendly and welcoming.

North of England

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I am a member of the Romantic Novelists Association (the RNA), which has several northern chapters. I am also a member of the Society of Authors and a patron of the Lancashire Authors Association, although I can't attend as many of their events as I would like. With the internet it is much easier for authors to keep in touch, and I have friends all over the country. However, it is also good to meet up and have a good natter from time to time, so I try to get to some of the RNA's local chapter meetings as well as their annual conference. There is also a group of authors around West Yorkshire who gather in Hebden Bridge occasionally for a lunch, which I really enjoy. One of the problems is balancing the desire to socialise with the need to write – it would be very easy to spend all my time lunching or meeting up with authors and not doing any work at all!

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

There are a number of writing and reading groups locally, and I am always happy to talk to them. I have spoken to local WI groups etc, and of course libraries are amazingly supportive, running workshops and talks. There aren't many bookshops around here, but even the local Tourist Information Centre has held book signings for me in the past.

As a writer based in the North does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?

I have never really considered living in the North a drawback as far as marketing is concerned, mainly because so much is done online these days. All my Melinda Hammond books are sold as e-books these days, so online promotion is the way forward – although having said that, many of the hardback editions are still available in libraries. Mills & Boon do run library-based initiatives, and I have run several workshops on romantic and historical fiction.

If someone is new to your work, which book do you think they should start with?

Oh heavens, there's a question! My Melinda Hammond novels are what can be terms "sweet" romances, The Sarah Mallory books a little hotter! Readers might like to start with the books I mentioned that are set in the north, or if someone likes a little more adventure then my Sarah Mallory novel, A Lady for Lord Randall, features scenes from Waterloo that I absolutely loved writing.


You can find out more about Melinda:

On her website
Follow on Twitter @SarahMRomance
Visit on Facebook
Find on Amazon

Warmest thanks to Melinda for being our very welcome guest today and for talking about her writing and sharing her love of  the North with us.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week's Close to Home feature

Coming next week : June Francis